How the “Shallow Depth of Field” Contest-Winning Photo Was Taken

Last week on our facebook page, we did a contest with the theme “Shallow Depth of Field.”  Over 1,100 people entered the contest with their shallow DOF photos and it was REALLY fun looking through all of the creative entries.  Most of the photos were portraits, but there were quite a few non-people photos in there as well.

The winner of the contest was Rachel Jones for her photo that is pictured below.  For those of you who missed them, the runner up and honorable mention photos are linked below as well.

Winner: Rachel Jones (pictured below)

The runner up is Cheryl Robinson Cramer for this photo–

Honorable mention: Ashley Mendenhall Moss:

Honorable Mention: Judy Tomlinson –

Honorable Mention: Robynn Jablonski –


Contest-winning photo by Rachel Jones

Photo by Rachel Jones. Used with permission.  Aperture: f/2.8, Shutter speed: 1/1600s, and ISO:400

I asked Rachel to write up a quick post to describe how she made her contest-winning photo and she was nice enough to do it.  Here’s Rachel…

“Look, it’s snow!”, a sweet little four year old said as we walked into the park. Our 5 minute walk from our cars had been filled with snow, but her pure wonderment, and joy at that moment could not have been more sincere. That sincere wonder is what I tried to capture in my image.

It was important to me to not only showcase my subject/her happiness, but to also showcase the object of her happiness. People often get so focused on one part or level of their subject, so of course, their portrait only includes one aspect of their subject. If the snow wasn’t also a prominent part of my image, it wouldn’t really communicate her love for it, would it?

I shoot with a Canon EOS Rebel XS camera, and for this image I shot with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens. My settings: Aperture: f/2.8, Shutter speed: 1/1600s, and ISO:400. My image SOOTC was a bit on the dark side, so I corrected that and added a bit of “polish” to my image in Photoshop CS5. Sometimes I use “Textures” on my images to enhance colors, but this image was edited using only the knowledge I gained through my Bachelor’s degree from BYU-Idaho.

I just want to quickly add that I am so grateful for the compliment of winning this contest, and all the compliments given from the fans of Improve Photography, thank you! I hope my image will inspire you to do more then praise the camera, lens, and the creator of it. I hope it will inspire you to learn more about photography, your love for it, your style and place in it, and the joy that is shared with it. I think that Improve Photography has given many (including myself) a wonderful opportunity to learn how to better understand the Art of being a photographer, but I hope you won’t stop here! Don’t just read about it, do it! And don’t just practice it, create/communicate with it!”

See more of Rachel’s work on her website:







  1. Frank Tyson

    I agree with Al in one thing that if they were indeed judged by the number of Likes from friends then the more friends you have the more likes you will get makes sense doesnt it Post it on your timeline with a link also in any groups on facebook you belong to and next thing you know you get heaps of them
    So the question as he asked was How were the entries judged?

  2. Author
    Jim Harmer

    @Al and @Frank Tyson – The winners were NOT chosen by the number of likes or comments. Dustin and I looked through each and every entry and chose the winners according to what we think the best photos are.

  3. Author
    Jim Harmer

    The fact that the winners were female is frankly not too surprising if you consider that 72% of our followers on Facebook are female, and the contest was run through our Facebook page.

  4. Al

    Yea i guess it puts us guys at a disadvantage. I thought Robynn Jablonski photo was awesome just a great shot all around. I entered several shots but mine were all macro. Maybe you could try a macro contest someday. Thanks for all your hard work running this site.

  5. Stan

    Sorry. Didn’t mean to offend anyone. I just started photography…about 4 weeks ago. I thought it was good to critique? Would I want someone telling me my crappy photos were awesome..heck no. The winner is not a crappy photo by the way, top 3 at least.

    I was just stating my opinion. I am most likely wrong since I have only read 2 books, my T2i manual, and this blog.

  6. Gloria

    I enjoyed viewing as many photos as I could and I am glad I was not the judge. I have judge photo contest on a much smaller scale and it is heart ranching. I submitted my photo not expecting to win but I was happy to enter the competition because I learned about DOF through my beginners class with Jim and Dustin. Before I took the class I had received complements on my photos DOF and I had no clue what DOF was. Congratulations to all the winners and it was a joy to see the entries from all over the world.

  7. Tara

    I think it is gorgeous! Just proves that you DONT have to own a Mark 3 to take amazing photos. It really IS the photographer, skill, and PASSION above all else. My favorite go to camera is the xsi. why? its light, does the job, and i just love it :) you did great!

  8. Steve

    Personally, I love this picture. Primarily for the eyes, how you can see a hint of the color; for the skin tones being a light pink and matches the bokeh of the tree in the background which ties the two elements together for me. The snowflakes are what add the magic of the moment. The stark colors of the jacket add a bit of contrast to the overall image, but might be just as nice without it-perhaps even better, but it’s there and I like it. Overall, the image is pleasing and if you don’t overanalyze it, it is a nice, well shot image of a beautiful young girl enjoying the snowflakes in the great outdoors. That is always a winner!

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  10. carlene

    Im new to photography and want to know if I should rush out and get the f2.8 lens or continue practicing with my sony a350 lenses???

  11. amy

    I know this is a tad old but I found this on my beloved pinterest and am burning through all the pages eating up all the info I find. Love this site, truly. I would just like to say with my graphic design background, what makes this shot work (for me) with the pink… it pulls the colors out. The touch of pink in the top of her hood, in her lower lip, the flush in her cheek. The flash of pink on the jacket ties all that color together to make it work. Your eye may start at that corner but then you look for the pops of pink, and find them in all the right spots because of the color, taking your eye all over the picture. Without it…. the picture might not be as dynamic as it is. Love it. Very inspiring to try to be as creative.

  12. Nikkie

    I think this is a gorgeous photo, my eye is drawn to her face, specifically to her eye region, not the coat and the colors add to the dreaminess of the photo. The flakes look wonderful. I am the same type of photographer, capturing true emotions. We are all different.

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